Our Turn: Denying an ally and the local economy
On March 6, the Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board of Directors held an off-site workshop to finish discussing their 2007 objectives. During this workshop, Adrian Neve from QinetiQ, LTD made a presentation to the board. Mr. Neve traveled from the United Kingdom to Truckee with one objective: to seek the cooperation of the Truckee Tahoe Airport District to flight test new rotor blades for the Royal Navy Sea King helicopters.Truckee Tahoe Airport was chosen as the best test site available due to its relatively high field elevation of 5,900 feet above sea level and its predictably calm morning wind. The tests would have included approximately 70 hours of flying over an eight to 12 week period, consisting of approximately 30 hours of hovering over the airport at 120 feet or less above ground level and nearly 40 hours of flying in the Carson and Washoe valleys. The testing was categorized as an Urgent Operational Requirement by British military officials to verify the increases in efficiency and performance of these new rotor blades with curved tips. An added benefit of the new blades is that they create less noise than the older, square-tipped blades. The urgency the British military placed upon this was driven by the need for improved flight performance coupled with a quieter noise pattern for military operations in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.During this off-site workshop, this request for assistance was presented to the airport board. It should be noted that the United States has no greater ally in this world than the United Kingdom, and the fact that this area was chosen as a test site and our local cooperation was requested should be considered an honor.Unfortunately, four of the five airport directors didnt see it in that light. In fact, they viewed this matter solely as a negative impact on the area. What is truly disturbing is the manner in which this transpired, and how the majority of the airport board took a self-serving position on this request for cooperation that would have had very positive benefits to our community. In lieu, we have an international black eye as a result of the board being more concerned about their political acceptance as opposed to running an airport.Here are some facts that business owners in this community should take note of. This flight testing would have resulted in about 2,500 room nights at local lodging establishments (you read that correctly). The Town of Truckee would have collected at least $25,000 in Transient Occupancy Taxes during the stay of foreign personnel in local accommodations. The airport would have sold at least $60,000 worth of fuel as a result of the testing being based here. The total economic impact to the community was approximated at $750,000. That is probably a conservative estimate. This testing was to occur in our shoulder season, commencing as soon as possible and ending in June. Our local merchants, lodge owners, restaurants, and local governmental entities would have benefited from this flight testing project.But our airport board, in their unwavering concern over aircraft noise, denied this international request for assistance. The discussion to deny the request took place at Granlibakken during an off-site workshop of the board, which while properly and legally noticed, made it impractical for the general public to attend and comment on this matter. Our conjecture would be that the public did not even know this discussion was being held on this past Tuesday.The actions of the majority of this board denying the request of QinetiQ, LTD are appalling, irresponsible and negligent. While the flight testing would have certainly resulted in some additional flight activity in the immediate vicinity of the airport, the economic and political benefits to this community would have been tremendous. Instead, we as members of this community have lost this opportunity thanks to the short-sighted and selfish perspectives of certain members of our airport board.On March 5, the airport board had conducted another workshop at Town Hall to discuss rates and fees. Their concern was a shortfall in revenue to cover the costs of operating the airport. During that meeting, a member of the public commented that good business practices dictate that the airport do everything in its power to promote the use of the airport, and that this board isnt really concerned about the profitability or financial viability of this airport.There is no doubt in our minds that the actions of the airport board are not serving the overall best interest of this community, but rather their own selfish, short-sighted, narrow-minded concerns. When the airport board denies a request for assistance by a foreign corporation serving its government, one that is arguably our countrys closest ally, we have a serious problem. Its evident by the actions of certain members of the board during Tuesdays off-site workshop that their interest isnt to benefit the airport and overall community, but rather to push their own agenda of noise reduction at any cost.Michael Golden, Tom Meadows and Leigh Golden are Truckee residents.
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